Ford’s Cruise-O-Matic and the C Household of Computerized Transmissions (Half I)

Ford’s Cruise-O-Matic and the C Household of Computerized Transmissions (Half I)


As we completed up our protection of Basic Motors’ Turbo-Hydramatic household of transmissions, I requested which gearbox you may wish to see coated subsequent by Deserted Historical past. The feedback honed in on Ford, and the assorted variations of the C household of automatics. Tremendous by me! Right this moment we head again to the Fifties to be taught concerning the genesis of all of the Cs. It was the extraordinarily Fifties-sounding Cruise-O-Matic, constructed with delight in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Cruise-O-Matic was not designed in-house by Ford however was the primary automated transmission used extensively throughout the Ford-Lincoln-Mercury portfolio. Ford was fairly late to the totally automated transmission recreation and solely realized circa 1948 that they’d fallen behind the competitors. By that point, GM had its four-speed Hydra-Matic on sale for a full eight mannequin years. Extra on that in a second.

Ford’s preliminary thought was to purchase an automated from another person. The gearbox Ford settled on was the DG, a model new transmission designed by the Detroit Gear division of Borg-Warner. However there was an issue. It wasn’t designed for Ford, so the oldsters at Dearborn didn’t personal the rights to make use of it (but).

The DG was designed for Studebaker, so Ford approached hat in hand and requested if they might buy rights to construct the DG. Studebaker was okay with promoting the rights with Ford, however their board had a stipulation. Studebaker would have a one-year unique proper to make use of the DG in its vehicles earlier than Ford may add it to their lineup. And cash-strapped Studebaker was already late to the automated recreation too; the DG wouldn’t be prepared for 2 extra years – mannequin yr 1950 for Studebakers.

Sensing {that a} 1951.5 debut of a Ford automated wouldn’t reduce the mustard, Ford determined to spend much more cash and acquire their very own transmission design. They’d already employed an engineer from Borg-Warner to be their VP of engineering, a person by the title of Harold Youngren. Youngren made a simple suggestion: Ford ought to go and purchase the automated he’d been engaged on proper as much as the purpose he left his former employer.

It was happenstance that the automated in growth at Borg-Warner was not on the behest of a selected automaker. Notably, it was developed by the Warner Gear division of Borg-Warner, not the Detroit Gear division. Ford approached Borg-Warner and signed a contract instantly for the automated. The settlement mentioned that Borg would construct half of Ford’s automatics, whereas the opposite half could possibly be produced in-house at Ford or by one other provider.

Ford didn’t need to farm out the transmission work any greater than it needed to, so it instantly put plans into movement for a model new transmission plant. When completed, Ford had the brand new 629,000 square-foot Fairfax Transmission Plant in Fairfax, Ohio, a village inside Cincinnati.

At launch in 1951, the transmission was branded because the Ford-O-Matic. In Mercury automobiles, it turned the Merc-O-Matic, and at Lincoln, it was known as Turbo-Drive. Value a point out, Lincolns within the early Fifties used the GM Hydra-Matic (gasp!). The Turbo-Drive wasn’t tailored for Lincoln’s use till 1955, maybe after it had time to show itself dependable. Ford’s automated was renamed in 1958 to Cruise-O-Matic, a reputation that’s higher recognized.

The newly-created Ford automated had two benefits over the earlier automatics the corporate used right here and there. The Borg-Warner design had an built-in torque converter and a planetary gearset, which meant gearshifts occurred with none interruption in torque. Keep in mind that till the Fifties, the automated transmission was not usually any good.

The Borg-Warner field additionally carried out a contemporary PRNDL shift sample, as a substitute of Ford’s earlier PNDLR. The outdated sample precipitated extra shift shock (jolting) upon gear modifications. PRNDL additionally made actions like parking and rocking a caught automobile forwards and backwards simpler, because it eliminated the low gear vary from between drive and reverse.

The transmission’s unique design was technically a three-speed, however when put in D it began in second gear after which shifted to 3rd. First gear was used provided that the automotive was in L (low). In conditions the place a driver floored the gasoline off the road, the gearbox would shift from second to first in drive, then again to second, after which third when the automotive was up to the mark.

As a result of it needed to undergo the difficulty of licensing a transmission that was in growth at Borg-Warner, Ford didn’t save a lot time over their preliminary plans to undertake the DG Borg-Warner unit from Studebaker. The Ford-O-Matic was prepared for the mannequin yr 1951, which gave Ford a couple of six-month benefit over the acquisition of the Studebaker automated and subsequent maintain on its use.

However Ford received the final chuckle! Studebaker received only a few pleased years of use out of the DG automated. The automaker had been struggling for years, and its cash troubles weren’t helped as automatics turned extra in style as a result of the DG was relatively costly to construct. The functionally and dimensionally related Ford-O-Matic was far more economical.

By the center of the Fifties, Studebaker was in a transmission jam. They approached Ford with the identical request Ford had in 1948: Please allow us to license your automated to be used in Studebakers. Ford consented and Studebaker started utilizing the Ford-O-Matic instantly of their vehicles. They branded it the Flight-O-Matic.

The Ford-O-Matic remained in its unique guise for the primary few years, earlier than Ford started updates to satisfy extra fashionable passenger automotive calls for. It remained in manufacturing by means of 1965, at which level Fairfax Transmission was already midway by means of its life as a transmission plant. Since your creator lives about quarter-hour from the location and we’re speaking Deserted Historical past, let’s be taught a bit extra about what occurred when a big transmission plant closed abruptly.

As a small suburb inside Hamilton County, Fairfax Transmission was a serious employer within the space from its institution in 1950 till its closure. Fairfax constructed transmissions just like the Ford-O-Matic and its successors for Ford’s massive rear-drive vehicles. However late Seventies downsizing killed the necessity for the plant’s capability, and it shut down fully in 1979.

After closure, Ford held onto the deserted website at 4000 Purple Financial institution Street till January of 1987, when it was bought off to a distribution firm. Stated firm deliberate to renovate at the least a part of the location into warehouse area. Unsurprisingly the large website was not maintained going ahead, and the 35-acre plot fell into main disrepair pretty shortly.

The chemical substances, heavy metals, and asbestos from its days as a plant weren’t contained or eliminated earlier than Ford bought the property, and had been subsequently ignored by its purchaser in 1987. Slowly, every part from the manufacturing facility leaked into the bottom. The manufacturing facility made up seven % of the land space of the village and have become a harmful eyesore and financial gap for many years.

Environmental harm and website decay continued into the 2000s. The scenario on the website received unhealthy sufficient that it was taken over as a undertaking of the Cincinnati Port Authority. The federal government group acquired the property after it established a Covenant To not Sue towards the location’s proprietor for its varied features of environmental and common negligence. The proprietor turned over the deed for no cash, and in trade was not sued for eternity by the town.

The Port Authority took possession in 2006 and began on a $60 million mixed-use redevelopment. All 629,000 sq. toes of the deserted manufacturing facility had been demolished, which meant recycling 1.5 million tons of metal and 120,000 tons of concrete, and digging up tens of hundreds of tons of contaminated grime. Redevelopment was completed in 2009, and in the present day the location hosts a Walmart, a Wendy’s, a Bob Sumerel Tire, and different companies and workplaces. The land is broken to the purpose the place the location can’t be used for residential functions, and the groundwater beneath it’s off-limits.

The results of the Cruise-O-Matic’s Deserted Historical past will likely be felt in Cincinnati for a very long time to come back. We’ll choose up subsequent time with happier tales of latest transmission expertise.

[Images: Ford, Cincinnati Port Authority]

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September 2022